It’s not uncommon to enter a typical commercial gym and see a vast majority of females confined to the cardio area while all the males are latching onto the nearest barbell. It’s a shame that women often feel intimidated by the thought of lifting weights since the benefits of weight training far outweigh the benefits of cardio. Don’t take this to mean that cardio isn’t a useful part of an exercise regimen, but rather that cardio on its own is not going to build that shapely, toned body that most females desire.
Given this, we have constructed a list of the top ten reasons females should choose to get down and dirty with some iron as opposed to slaving away on the elliptical (or whatever cardio apparatus they choose to obey).
1. Accelerates fat-loss when combined with cardio
Having an exercise regimen that relies solely on cardio for fat-loss will eventually lead to stagnation as your metabolic rate will continue to drop as your body adapts to the demand you put on it. Therefore, the prudent thing to do is incorporate more bouts of weight training while keeping cardio to as low of a frequency as possible (while still achieving your fat-loss goals). In fact a study recently published in the Journal of Applied Physiology showed that concurrent training (combining weight and endurance training) greatly enhanced the metabolic effects of each mode of training on their own.
Essentially, you get more fat-loss from cardio when you combine it with weight training.
2. Increases calorie expenditure
Vigorous weight training actually boosts your metabolic rate throughout the day, which in turn makes you more efficient at burning body-fat when you’re not exercising. It appears that the primary mechanism for this is increased mitochondria in cells, via a process known as mitochondrial biogenesis. Mitochondria are basically the “powerhouse” of cells and by increasing these organelles you increase your metabolic rate/daily calorie expenditure. Numerous studies have illustrated that weight training greatly enhances such biochemical adaptations, while doing too much cardio can do just the opposite (decrease mitochondrial content in cells/lower metabolic rate).
When in doubt, opt for the iron over the treadmill… you’ll likely burn more calories in the end anyway.
3. Shapes your curves
Most females feel that the best way to shape their body and achieve a more toned look is by spending hours doing low-intensity cardio. The reality is that the best way to “bring out your curves” is to build strength and muscle. If all you do is constantly endure long bouts of low/moderate intensity cardio then you are basically lowering your metabolic rate while concomitantly losing muscle mass. In the end, you will have lowered your bodyweight but increased your body-fat percentage (i.e. you will look “skinny-fat”). Don’t give in to the idea that you need to be a “cardio bunny” in order to be lean and toned.
The more weight training you incorporate, the more shapely your body will be, and the fact that you will also be stronger will empower you.
4. More energy throughout the day
Weight training actually greatly improves your psychological well-being and enhances your sense of vitality throughout your daily life. It’s not uncommon to feel completely wiped out and lifeless after spending hours on the treadmill; lifting, on the other hand actually boosts “feel-good” chemicals in the brain. In fact, studies show that the heavy weight exercise protocols appear to greatly increase plasma beta-endorphin concentration, which in turn modulates mood in a positive manner.
If you find yourself stressed out, don’t hesitate to take some of that out on the iron… lifting can be very therapeutic.
5. Better heart health, blood lipid profiles, and insulin sensitivity
The heart is indeed a muscle (a smooth muscle) and it can be trained much like skeletal muscle. Most females assume that aerobic exercise is inherently the best way to train the heart and improve blood lipid profiles. While that is true, combining aerobic exercise with weight training actually has been shown to do those factors just as effectively, if not even more.
Not only does weight training reduce Low-Density Lipoproteins (LDL), which is often referred to as “unhealthy” cholesterol, but also it elevates serum values of high-density lipoproteins (which is “healthy” cholesterol).
Moreover, weight training is one of the most effective ways to increase insulin sensitivity. This essentially means that your body is more efficient at utilizing carbohydrates for energy and assisting the muscle-building process, as opposed to storing them and being converted to adipose tissue.
If you want to enjoy some sugary treats without feeling guilty, hit the iron and indulge a bit!
6. Improves mental health
Many females foray into the gym because they find themselves depressed with the way they look and end up doing tons of cardio to fix the issue. Instead, these women would be much better off grabbing a barbell and letting out some of their worries on the iron. Along with the points alluded to in Reason #4, chronic weight training has been shown to greatly reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety in a plethora of studies. Most females will find along the continuum of their training that lifting really does improve your body image and self-esteem.
The actual process of building your physique is much like carving a sculpture. Enjoy every rep of your training and soon you will have your masterpiece.
7. Bone health improves
Osteoporosis and osteopenia are becoming more and more common in females (both young and old), which can likely be attributed to physical inactivity and lack of load-bearing exercises. Weight-bearing exercise in particular provides mechanical stimuli or “loading” important for the maintenance and improvement of bone health, whereas physical inactivity has been implicated in loss of bone density. In fact, low bone mass is a major risk factor for fractures in females, and one of the most effective ways to reverse degeneration of bones is to consistently train with weights; studies suggest it is quite a bit more effective than aerobic exercise as well.
Take-home point is that if you want to keep your bones healthy and strong, choose the weights over the treadmill… you’ll thank yourself down the road.
8. Improves libido
If you’re somewhat familiar with female endocrinology, you hopefully know that estrogen is the primary sex hormone they produce. However, women also produce small amounts of testosterone (the primary male sex hormone) and it appears that boosting testosterone levels in females improves their sex drive and well-being.
Weight training is one of the most effective ways to naturally elevate testosterone levels in both males and females. Hopefully females don’t take this to mean they will suddenly get all hairy and grow a beard just because they hit the iron a few times a week, because that is certainly far from what will happen. The slight elevation in testosterone levels that can be achieved via weight training will serve to enhance your sex life and keep you in a positive mood.
Contrarily, long-duration cardio (over 1 hour) may do just the opposite and decrease testosterone levels.
9. Better sleep quality
Females should aim for 6-8 hours of sleep per night, and they often fall short of this range due to things like stress and poor mood. Numerous studies have demonstrated that a sustained exercise regimen incorporating vigorous weight training can greatly improve sleep quality and the duration of sleep episodes. In fact, weight training provides an effective natural alternative to pharmaceutical interventions in patients with insomnia.
Don’t be afraid to pump some iron if you just can’t get to sleep at night, it will knock you out (literally).
10. Weight training with heavy resistance, WILL NOT make females bulky; it will empower them!
One of the most annoying myths that pervades gyms everywhere is the idea that females who train with relatively heavy weights will suddenly transform into the female equivalent of The Incredible Hulk. Reality is that females should train with heavy weights just like their male counterparts often do and no it won’t make you “bulky” and deepen your voice.
If a female really wanted to get “bulky” they would have to eat like a pig and put in years of intense training just like any other person, regardless their gender, would have to… nobody just blows up their muscle size by accident.
Summing it up
So there you have it, 10 of the top reasons females should stop fearing weights and give the cardio room a break. Of course it would be remiss not to mention that some cardio is worthwhile in almost any female’s exercise regimen, but weight training should be the focus; don’t worry, you won’t magically get “bulky” overnight just because you start lifting more.
You’ll just have sexier curves and a lean body… that’s not so bad, is it?
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